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Monsters University

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Monsters University
Monsters University poster 3.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed byDan Scanlon
Screenplay by
Story by
  • Dan Scanlon
  • Dan Gerson
  • Robert L. Baird
Produced byKori Rae
  • Matt Aspbury (camera)
  • Jean-Claude Kalache (lighting)
Edited byGreg Snyder
Music byRandy Newman
Distributed byWalt Disney Studios
Motion Pictures
Release dates
  • June 5, 2013 (2013-06-05) (BFI Southbank)
  • June 21, 2013 (2013-06-21) (United States)
Running time
104 minutes[1]
CountryUnited States
Budget$200 million[2][3][4]
Box office$743.6 million[5]

Monsters University is a 2013 American computer-animated monster comedy film produced by Pixar Animation Studios and released by Walt Disney Pictures.[6] It was directed by Dan Scanlon (in his feature directorial debut) and produced by Kori Rae, with John Lasseter, Pete Docter, Andrew Stanton, and Lee Unkrich serving as executive producers. Scanlon also wrote the screenplay and story with Dan Gerson and Robert L. Baird. The music for the film was composed and conducted by Randy Newman, making it his seventh collaboration with Pixar. It is a prequel to Monsters, Inc. (2001), making it the only time Pixar has made a prequel film.[7] Monsters University tells the story of the main characters of Monsters, Inc., James P. Sullivan and Mike Wazowski, and their time at college, where they start off as rivals, but slowly become best friends. During the time, they must learn to work together, along with Oozma Kappa members, in order to make his dream reality and things right. John Goodman, Billy Crystal, Steve Buscemi, Bob Peterson, and John Ratzenberger reprise their roles as James P. Sullivan, Mike Wazowski, Randall Boggs, Roz, and the Abominable Snowman, respectively, while the new cast were joined by Helen Mirren, Alfred Molina, Peter Sohn, Joel Murray, Sean Hayes, Dave Foley, Charlie Day, and Nathan Fillion. Bonnie Hunt, who voiced Ms. Flint in the first film, voices Mike's grade school teacher Ms. Karen Graves.

Disney, as the rights holder, had plans for a sequel to Monsters, Inc. since 2005. Following disagreements with Pixar, Disney tasked its Circle 7 Animation unit to make the film.[8] An early draft of the film was developed; however, Disney's purchase of Pixar in early 2006 led to the cancellation of Circle 7's version of the film.[9] A Pixar-made sequel was confirmed in 2010,[6] and in 2011, it was confirmed that the film would instead be a prequel titled Monsters University.[10]

Monsters University premiered on June 5, 2013 at the BFI Southbank in London, England, and was theatrically released in the United States on June 21, 2013. It was accompanied in theaters by a short film, The Blue Umbrella, directed by Saschka Unseld.[11] The film received positive reviews from critics and grossed $743 million worldwide against its $200 million production budget, making it the seventh highest-grossing film of 2013.[3][5] An animated short film titled Party Central, which takes place shortly after the events of Monsters University, premiered in fall 2013 before being released theatrically with Muppets Most Wanted in 2014.[12][13]


As a first grader, Mike Wazowski begins to dream of becoming a scarer - a monster who enters the human world at night to scare children and harvest their screams for energy to power the city of Monstropolis. Eleven years later, Mike enrolls in the scaring program at Monsters University (MU) and meets classmate James P. "Sulley" Sullivan. Abigail Hardscrabble, dean of MU, warns students that anyone who does not pass a final exam at the end of the first semester will have to leave the scaring program.

As the semester progresses, an intense rivalry forms between Mike, who studies hard to improve himself, and Sulley, who relies only on his natural talent and begins to falter. They both attempt to join a fraternity, but only Sulley is accepted into Roar Omega Roar (ROR), the most prestigious house on campus. At the final exam, a fight between the duo inadvertently destroys Hardscrabble’s prized scream canister. Hardscrabble tests them separately and fails them both. They are forced to transfer to a scream canister designing program, much to their dismay.

Wanting to prove himself, Mike signs up for the "Scare Games" and makes a deal with Hardscrabble on the condition that if his team wins, all of the members will be admitted to the scaring program, otherwise, he will leave MU. Mike joins Oozma Kappa (OK), a fraternity of misfits, but they are one member short of being able to enter the competition. Sulley offers to join OK, as it is his only chance to return to scaring, and Mike reluctantly accepts.

OK finishes last in the first round but are saved from elimination after another team is disqualified for cheating. During each of the next three rounds, OK steadily improves due to Mike's knowledge of scaring and the others' unique talents. Despite their progress, they face setbacks and humiliation by rival fraternities, and Hardscrabble questions whether Sulley believes that Mike can be an effective Scarer. Although OK wins a decisive victory over ROR in the final round, Mike discovers afterwards that Sulley had tampered with the simulator settings to guarantee a win for OK, causing a heated argument between them. The other OK members discard their trophy, ashamed of Sulley for ruining their victory by cheating. Sulley meets with Hardscrabble and confesses that he cheated.

Outraged at Sulley's betrayal and still determined to prove that he can become a scarer, Mike breaks into the school's door lab and enters the human world. He emerges in a summer camp cabin full of children but is unable to scare any of them and flees into the woods. With assistance from the OK members, Sulley sneaks through the door and finds Mike; he admits to Mike that he cheated because he was afraid of failing his team. They reconcile and try to return to MU, but find out that Hardscrabble has deactivated the door.

As human police officers begin to chase Mike and Sulley, Mike realizes that they may be able to power the door from their side. Working together, they scare the officers and power the door, then return to MU just as it explodes. Mike and Sulley are expelled from MU for their actions, but the remaining OK members are admitted into the scaring program. As Mike and Sulley leave the campus, Hardscrabble admits that they have surprised her and expresses her hope that they will continue to do so in the future. Seeing a "Help Wanted" advertisement for job openings at Monsters, Inc., they decide to apply and are hired to work in the mailroom. Sulley and Mike work their way up to different jobs before becoming a scarer and scare assistant, respectively, setting the events of Monsters, Inc. in motion.


Billy Crystal, John Goodman, and Steve Buscemi (top) reprise their roles from Monsters, Inc. while Helen Mirren, Nathan Fillion, and Alfred Molina (bottom) play new characters.

Kelsey Grammer was originally announced to voice Henry J. Waternoose III in the film, replacing James Coburn, who voiced Waternoose in the first film and passed away in 2002. The character was eventually cut from the film.[25]



Plans for a second Monsters, Inc. film existed since 2002. Following disagreements between Disney CEO Michael Eisner and Pixar CEO Steve Jobs, Disney—which owned the rights to make sequels to all of Pixar's films up to and including Carsannounced that a sequel to Monsters, Inc. would be made by Disney's Circle 7 Animation studio, which was also working on early drafts of Toy Story 3 & Finding Nemo 2.[8] Titled Monsters, Inc. 2: Lost in Scaradise, the film would have focused on Mike and Sulley visiting the human world to give Boo a birthday present, only to find that she had moved. After getting trapped in the human world, Mike and Sulley would split up after disagreeing on what to do.[26] Screenwriters Rob Muir and Bob Hilgenberg were hired to write a script for the film, and storyboarded an early draft of it.[9] Disney's change of management in late 2005—in which Eisner was replaced by Bob Iger—led to renewed negotiations with Pixar, and in early 2006 Disney announced it had purchased the studio. The Disney-owned sequel rights were then transferred to Pixar, leading to the cancellation of Muir and Hilgenberg's version of the film and the subsequent closure of Circle 7.[9]

A Pixar-made sequel was confirmed in 2010.[6] The film was originally planned for release on November 16, 2012, but the release was moved up to November 2, 2012 to avoid competition with The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn – Part 2. On March 29, 2011, it was confirmed that the film would be a prequel and the title Monsters University was announced.[10] On April 4, 2011, due to Pixar's past success with summer releases, according to a Disney executive, it was confirmed that the film would be released on June 21, 2013.[27]

Dan Scanlon
Kori Rae
Director Dan Scanlon (left) and producer Kori Rae (right) screened the film at the 2013 Annecy International Animated Film Festival.[28]

The feature was directed by Dan Scanlon and produced by Kori Rae.[29][30] Billy Crystal, John Goodman, Steve Buscemi, Bob Peterson, and John Ratzenberger reprised their roles, and Bonnie Hunt voiced a new character. New voice cast included Dave Foley, Sean Hayes, Julia Sweeney, Helen Mirren, Alfred Molina, Peter Sohn, Charlie Day, Joel Murray, Nathan Fillion, Aubrey Plaza, Tyler Labine, John Krasinski, Bill Hader, Bobby Moynihan, and Beth Behrs.[31]

The plot of Monsters University details Mike and Sulley's first meeting, but this created a continuity error from the original film in which Mike tells Sulley "You've been jealous of my good looks since the fourth grade." Director Dan Scanlon said he had a dilemma with this line during pre-production, but he believed it was best if Mike and Sulley meet in college because, "we wanted to see their relationship develop when they were adults. And we also felt like college is so much about self-discovery and figuring out who you are." He added, "It felt like the perfect place to do this, but we had that line. So we tried versions where they met young and then we skipped ahead to college. And we knew we didn't want to make Monsters Elementary." Scanlon said during pre-production that, "Pete Docter, the original director, and John Lasseter ... finally said to me, 'it's great that you're honoring that, but you have to do what's right for the story.' So we made a tough decision to just have them be in college and put that line aside." Scanlon later retconned the line from the first film as "an old monster expression", saying, "That’s what monsters always say to each other."[32][33]


Monsters University is the first Pixar film that used global illumination, a new lighting system introduced as part of the overhaul of the rendering system used since the first Toy Story film. In the planning stage of the film, director of photography, Jean-Claude Kalache, asked "What if we made these lights just work?" Before the new system, artists had to build reflections and shadows manually, which became increasingly complex as the models and the setups became more technologically advanced. The new lighting system uses path tracing, a technique that imitates the behaviour of the light in the real world; this automatized the process, delivered more realism, produced soft shadows, and let the artist spend more time on models and complex scenes – some of which contained thousands of light sources.[34][35]

For research, the filmmakers visited several colleges in the U.S., including Harvard University, Stanford University, UC Berkeley, and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, observing college architecture, student life, Greek organizations, and the teaching methods of professors and faculty.[36][37][38] To research fraternity life, which is central to the film, many of the film's producers spent several weeks at a fraternity house. Researchers also attended a "Bonfire Rally" at Berkeley in anticipation of the Big Game, a rivalry football game between the university and Stanford.[37]


Monsters University (Original Score)
Soundtrack album by
ReleasedJune 18, 2013
LabelWalt Disney
Pixar soundtrack chronology
Monsters University (Original Score)
Inside Out
Randy Newman chronology
Toy Story 3
Monsters University
Cars 3

The music for the film is Randy Newman's seventh collaboration with Pixar as composer. Walt Disney Records released the soundtrack on June 18, 2013.[39][40]

The songs "Main Title", "Rise and Shine", and "The Scare Games" feature the drum line from the Blue Devils group "BD Entertainment". The recordings for the percussion tracks were done at Skywalker Ranch,[41] and were written by Blue Devils Percussion Caption Head Scott Johnson.[42]

The songs "Ísland" by Mastodon and "Gospel" by MarchFourth Marching Band are featured during the film but do not appear on the soundtrack. The songs "Party Hard" by Andrew W.K. and "Kickstart My Heart" by Mötley Crüe are featured prominently in the teaser trailers but do not appear on the soundtrack or in the film.

Track listing

All music is composed by Randy Newman, except where noted.

1."Main Title"0:52
2."Young Michael"3:58
3."First Day at MU"4:32
4."Dean Hardscrabble"3:19
6."Scare Pig"2:00
7."Wasted Potential"1:16
8."Oozma Kappa"3:16
9."Stinging Glow Urchin"2:34
10."Field Trip"3:57
11."Rise and Shine"3:00
12."The Library"3:44
13."Roar" (Axwell and Sebastian Ingrosso of Swedish House Mafia)2:55
14."The Scare Games"6:00
15."Did You Do This?"2:00
16."Human World"2:07
17."The Big Scare"3:02
19."Mike and Sulley"1:12
20."Monsters University"1:34
Total length:55:15



The film had its worldwide premiere on June 5, 2013, as a special screening at BFI Southbank in London with the director and producer in attendance.[43] The film had its Asian premiere as the opening film of the 2013 Shanghai International Film Festival on June 15, 2013.[44] It premiered in the United States on June 8, 2013, at the Seattle International Film Festival,[44] and was released in theaters on June 21, 2013. The film's theatrical release was accompanied by Pixar's short film titled The Blue Umbrella.[11]


The first teaser trailer for Monsters University was released on June 20, 2012.[45] Four versions of the trailer exist; in his sleep, Mike mutters excuses to avoid attending class in each one, such as "I'm not wearing any clothes," "My homework ate my dog," "Class President?", and "My pony made the Dean's List." A second trailer was released on February 11, 2013, a third on April 26, 2013, and a fourth and final trailer, which included scenes from the film, was released on May 30, 2013.

On October 8, 2012, Pixar revealed a fully functional website for Monsters University, complete with information about admissions, academic and campus life, and a campus store to purchase MU apparel. On April 1, 2013, the website was styled to appear as though a rival college, Fear Tech, had hacked and vandalized it.[46][47] The first television commercial for the film was aired during the 2013 Rose Bowl Game, parodying advertisements for participating schools that are shown during college football telecasts. From June 27 until July 11, 2013, Disney's online game Club Penguin hosted a Monsters University Takeover event to promote the film. Players could dress up as their favorite monsters and take part in the Scare Games.[48]

Home media[edit]

Monsters University was released by Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment on Blu-ray, 3D Blu-ray, DVD, digital copy, and on demand on October 29, 2013. It was accompanied by The Blue Umbrella, Pixar's short film which played alongside the film in theaters.[49] Monsters University was released on 4K Blu-ray on March 3, 2020.[50]


Box office[edit]

Monsters University grossed $268.5 million in the United States and Canada and $475.1 million in other countries, for a worldwide total of $743.6 million.[5] Calculating in all expenses, Deadline Hollywood estimated that the film made a profit of $179.8 million.[51]

It became the 53rd highest-grossing film of all time,[52] the 11th highest-grossing animated film all time, the seventh-highest-grossing 2013 film,[5] and the third-highest-grossing Pixar film.[53] The film earned $136.9 million worldwide on its opening weekend.[54] Disney declined to provide a budget for the film; Entertainment Weekly speculated that it was higher than that of Brave ($185 million), mainly because of the high cost of John Goodman and Billy Crystal reprising their roles.[55] Shockya and EOnline reported the budget to be $200 million—on par with previous Pixar films.[3][4]

North America[edit]

In the week leading to Monsters University's release, Disney projected an opening-weekend gross of at least $70 million.[56] The film opened on Friday, June 21, 2013 across 4,004 theaters in first place with $30.47 million—including $2.6 million in 20:00 Thursday night shows[57]—marking the fifth-largest opening day among animated films.[58] The film then reached first place with an opening-weekend gross of $82.43 million; the second-largest among Pixar films,[59] the second-largest among G-rated films,[60] the fourth-largest among prequels,[61] the fifth-largest among animated films,[62] and the fifth-largest among films released in June.[63] Monsters University remained at first place on its second weekend, declining 45% to $45.6 million.[64] Facing tough competition from Despicable Me 2 on its third weekend, it dropped 57% to $19.7 million.[65] As of December 2013, it is the tenth-highest-grossing animated film.[66]

Outside North America[edit]

The film earned $54.5 million in 35 markets on its opening weekend.[59] It set a Pixar opening-weekend record in Latin America with revenues of $31.7 million.[67] In Argentina, the film set an opening-weekend record among all films with $5.49 million.[68][69] In Australia, where it had a simultaneous release with Despicable Me 2, Monsters University debuted behind the latter with $3.56 million in third place.[70] In Hong Kong, the film set opening-day (HK$5.03 million),[71] single-day (HK$7.93 million) and opening-weekend (HK$25.79 million) records among animated films, beating the previous record holder, Toy Story 3.[72] In the UK, the film topped the box office during its opening weekend with a gross of £3.46 million.[73] The film's largest opening occurred in China, where its $13 million debut ranked fourth among Disney films.[74][75] The film's highest-grossing markets are Japan ($90.1 million), the UK, Ireland, and Malta ($47.2 million), and Mexico ($37.6 million).[75]

Critical response[edit]

Review aggregation website Rotten Tomatoes gives the film a score of 80% based on 204 reviews with an average rating of 6.8/10. The site's critical consensus reads "Offering Monsters, Inc. fans a welcome return visit with beloved characters, Monsters University delivers funny and thoughtful family entertainment for viewers of any age."[76] Another review aggregator, Metacritic, which assigns a rating out of 100 top reviews from mainstream critics, calculated a score of 65 based on 41 reviews, indicating "generally favorable reviews".[77] Audiences polled by CinemaScore gave the film an average grade of "A" on an A+ to F scale. According to Disney, audiences were 56% female and 60% below the age of 25. Families made up 73% of business, and teens accounted for 15%. The film played well with all ages.[55]

Matt Zoller Seitz of Chicago Sun-Times gave the film four stars out of four, saying it "is true to the spirit of [Monsters, Inc.] and matches its tone. But it never seems content to turn over old ground."[78] Trevor Johnston of Time Out gave the film four stars out of five, writing "It has enough of the right stuff to haunt the imagination long after the immediate buzz of its fluffy-furred cuteness has melted away. For a mere prequel, that's a result."[79] Steven Rea of The Philadelphia Inquirer gave the film three stars out of four and said it "is cute, and funny, and the animation, though not exactly inspired, is certainly colorful."[80] Jake Coyle of Associated Press gave the film three stars out of four, saying it "might not be as gifted as some of its other movies, but sometimes it's alright to be OK."[81] Peter Travers of Rolling Stone gave the film three stars out of four, and said "It's all infectious fun, despite the lack of originality. In the art of tickling funny bones, Crystal and Goodman earn straight A's."[82] Richard Corliss of Time gave the film a positive review, saying "This minor film with major charms still deserves to have kids dragging their parents to the multiplex for one more peek at the monsters in the closet. With Pixar, familiarity breeds content."[83] Bill Goodykoontz of The Arizona Republic gave the film three-and-a-half stars out of five and said it is "one of those movies that has absolutely no reason to exist, but once you've seen it, you're kind of glad it does."[84] Alan Scherstuhl of The Village Voice gave the film a positive review, saying "Monsters University feels not like the work of artists eager to express something but like that of likable pros whose existence depends on getting a rise out the kids. It's like the scares Sully and Mike spring on those sleeping tykes: technically impressive but a job un-anchored to anything more meaningful."[85]

Leonard Maltin of IndieWire praised the animation and art direction, but wrote that he wished "the movie was funnier and wasn't so plot-heavy" and that "Pixar has raised the bar for animated features so high that when they turn out a film that's merely good, instead of great, they have only themselves to blame for causing critics to damn them with faint praise."[86] Michael Phillips of Chicago Tribune gave the film two stars out of four, saying "Monsters University, the weirdly charmless sequel to the animated 2001 Pixar hit Monsters, Inc., is no better or worse than the average (and I mean average) time-filling sequel cranked out by other animation houses."[87] Todd McCarthy of The Hollywood Reporter gave the film a negative review, saying that it "never surprises, goes off in unexpected directions or throws you for a loop in the manner of the best Pixar stories. Nor does it come close to elating through the sheer imagination of its conceits and storytelling."[88] Claudia Puig of USA Today gave the film three stars out of four, and said it "may not be as inventive as Inc., but it's an amusing and amiable addition to Pixar's roster of animated coming-of-age stories."[89] Michael O'Sullivan of The Washington Post gave the film three stars out of four, saying "It may be children's terror that powers the movie's fictional universe, but it's the energy of its stars that lights up Monsters University."[90] Chris Nashawaty of Entertainment Weekly gave the film an A− and said it "is exactly the rebound Pixar needed after 2011's Cars 2 left some wondering if the studio had lost its magic. The delightful story of when Mike met Sulley puts those concerns to rest."[91] James Berardinelli of ReelViews gave the film three stars out of four and wrote "Although it falls short of the best Pixar has brought to the screen over its long association with Disney, it's nevertheless worth a trip to the theater, especially for kids."[92]

However, the film was not without its detractors. Richard Roeper gave the film a C+, saying "This is a safe, predictable, edge-free, nearly bland effort from a studio that rarely hedges its bets."[93] Stephen Whitty of Newark Star-Ledger gave the film two-and-a-half stars out of four and said "The artwork is accomplished, and intricate. The G-rating is genuine, without any gross-out gags. And there's none of the usual winks to the adults with tired, pop-culture references."[94] Manohla Dargis of The New York Times gave the film two-and-a-half stars out of five and wrote "Both the originality and stirring emotional complexity of Monsters, Inc., with its exquisitely painful and touching parallels with the human world, are missing."[95] Ty Burr of The Boston Globe gave the film two-and-a-half stars out of four, and said "This is not a bad movie, and to small children it will be a very good one, but it's closer to average than one would wish from the company that gave us Up, WALL-E, The Incredibles, and the Toy Story series."[96] Rene Rodriguez of Miami Herald gave the film two stars out of five and wrote that it "feels half-hearted and lazy, like they weren't even trying. At least show a little effort, guys."[97]


Monsters University marks the first Pixar film not to be nominated for either an Oscar or a Golden Globe.

Award Date of ceremony Category Recipients Result
American Cinema Editors[98] February 7, 2014 Best Edited Animated Feature Film Greg Snyder Nominated
Annie Awards[99][100] February 1, 2014 Best Animated Feature
Animated Effects in an Animated Production
Character Animation in an Animated Feature Production John Chun Chiu Lee
Character Design in an Animated Feature Production Chris Sasaki
Music in an Animated Feature Production Randy Newman
Production Design in an Animated Feature Production Ricky Nierva, Robert Kondo, Daisuke "Dice" Tsutsumi
Voice Acting in an Animated Feature Production Billy Crystal (Mike Wazowski)
Writing in an Animated Feature Production Daniel Gerson, Robert L. Baird, Dan Scanlon
Storyboarding in an Animated Feature Production Dean Kelly Won
Editorial in an Animated Feature Production Greg Snyder, Gregory Amundson, Steve Bloom
British Academy Film Awards[101] February 16, 2014 Best Animated Film Dan Scanlon Nominated
Cinema Audio Society Awards[102][103] February 22, 2014 Outstanding Achievement in Sound Mixing for Motion Pictures – Animated Doc Kane, Michael Semanick, Gary Summers, David Boucher, Corey Tyler
Critics' Choice Movie Award[104] January 16, 2014 Best Animated Feature
Denver Film Critics Society January 13, 2014 Best Animated Feature Film
Hollywood Film Awards[105] October 21, 2013 Hollywood Animation Award Won
International Cinephile Society[106] February 23, 2014 Best Animated Film Nominated
Kids' Choice Awards[107] March 29, 2014 Favorite Animated Movie
Favorite Voice from an Animated Movie Billy Crystal
Producers Guild of America Award[108] January 19, 2014 Outstanding Producer of Animated Theatrical Motion Pictures Kori Rae
San Francisco Film Critics Circle[109] December 15, 2013 Best Animated Feature
Satellite Awards[110] February 23, 2014 Best Motion Picture, Animated or Mixed Media
Saturn Award June 2014 Best Animated Film
Visual Effects Society Awards[111] February 12, 2014 Outstanding Animation in an Animated Feature Motion Picture Kori Rae, Sanjay Bakshi, Jon Reisch, Scott Clark
Outstanding Created Environment in an Animated Feature Motion Picture Robert Kondo, Eric Andraos, Dale Ruffolo, Peter Sumanaseni (Campus)
Washington D.C. Area Film Critics Association[112] December 9, 2013 Best Animated Feature


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